Jim Priebe is the school principal at Ahgwahbuush Memorial School in Poplar Hill First Nation. Jim has been in Poplar Hill First Nation since the September 2018. Before applying to teach in the North with Teach For Canada, Jim taught for six years with the York Region District School Board. He completed a Bachelor of Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Arts, Hons. Economics, at Queen’s University. Jim is originally from Newmarket, ON.
My commute to school is a 15 minute walk. Here is what I see on the way.
Teachers are provided with accommodation called “teacherages”. This is the one where I live. I like it because it is close to the water and “The Northern” – the only store in town.
You can see a fuel tank to the left. As far as I can tell, since this is a fly-in community, a year’s supply of fuel is brought in via the winter road, which is open for about six to eight weeks in the winter. Then the fuel is stored around the community. It is used for vehicles and also to generate electricity.
Here is a better view of the water behind my teacherage.
There are a number of stray dogs around, known locally as “rez dogs”. One in particular has become my pal. She walks me to school. Sometimes when I go into school and sit at my desk she stands on her hind legs and looks in the window. This stray isn’t my pal, just decided to meander into the picture.
I’m told that later in the winter wolves may venture into the community and snatch a stray dog for food.
This is the road I walk to get to school. The roads here aren’t paved.
With apologies to the Beatles, here is the school on the hill:
I’ve arrived at the school. That’s Ojibwe on the top half of the sign. Poplar Hill is one of the few First Nations in which the language has been preserved and where it is spoken by almost everyone.
The school itself is about two years old. The old school, which was located in a different area, has been torn down and an updated, larger nursing station is being built in its place.
This is the view from the top of the hill. The trailers are where the construction crew building the new nursing station are staying. You can also see a hockey rink.
Huffing and puffing notwithstanding, I’m ready to go into the school. This bulletin board is in the entranceway where students leave their outdoor shoes. The door leads to the gym.
The gym is visible by looking through the window in the door.
Entering the school you can see an open area. In the back are some folded-up tables. We use these tables for our breakfast program. Breakfast for all students is provided before school starts. There is a kitchen to the right, but you can’t see it here.
The window on the left looks into the library. In the back is the playground for grades 2-8. To the right you can see windows and a large door. This is the multipurpose room.
The multipurpose room has fitness equipment for staff to use. It also serves, approximately once per month, as a courtroom. There is no other suitable facility in the community to have court, so it happens here. School is closed on court days.
Slightly to the right (out of sight), down the hall, is a bulletin board honoring the Seven Teachings: Humility, Respect, Honesty, Bravery, Love, Wisdom and Truth.
When I first started, I was hired as the Reading Intervention teacher, until I was asked to take on the role of school principal. This is the Reading Intervention classroom:
There is special funding for the Reading Intervention teacher. This is an excellent program. Unfortunately I may not be able to find a replacement. Although in southern Ontario many teachers would find this to be a dream job, it is difficult to find teachers to work up here so the position may remain unfilled for some time.
Now, a busy school day awaits me!